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The Rent Party: A Slice of Harlem Food History

Blueberry crumb pie, recipes below

I’ve been in New York City attending The State of African American and African Diaspora Studies Conference at the Schomburg Center for Research in Harlem. It’s been a great event and my time here reminds of Harlem food history. To make ends meet during the Depression, African Americans turned to strategies like throwing rent parties. On a Saturday night, one could always find buffet-flats, rent parties, whist parties, and dances, where, for a small fee, one could purchase down-home food and dance to good music. Langston Hughes recalled:
The Saturday night rent parties that I attended were often more amusing than any night club, in small apartments where God knows who lived—because the guests seldom did—but where the piano would often be augmented by a guitar, or an odd cornet, or somebody with a pair of drums walking in off the street. And where awful bootleg whiskey and good fried fish or steaming chitterling were sold at very low prices.
The family in need got the word out and then went to work preparing food for the party. Meanwhile, residents in the surrounding area scrounged enough money to buy a plate of food and prevent someone from being evicted.For very little money you could get homemade pie, greens, and fried chicken, or fish, or some part of the hog. On my first night in town, I had an incredible slice of blueberry crumb pie with this great pie crust that was sweet but not too sweet and crunchy; here are some recipes for it.

Oprah’s Blueberry crumb pie recipe: http://www.oprah.com/food/Blueberry-Crumb-Pie

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